As Ellen neared the end of her life I made an oath. “When you wear one I wear one,” referring to the diapers she would soon require. The day came, and it was as horrible as you could imagine.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this,” she slowly moan-mumbled.
My mom and I held her and cried with her; then we strapped the scratchy, absorbent nightmare onto her graying, atrophied, weary fourteen-year-old body.
I sat squarely in the Fuck You God camp, but Ellen still believed. Probably more so, because eternity was coming closer and she smelled like death topped with glory shavings. Her only fear was living away from Mama.
Abruptly, the sobbing stopped.
“Now it’s your turn Claire, oh Claire, oh Claire, oh Claire.” In an interesting turn of events her voice synthesized into a weepier version of Julia Child’s. She would get stuck like a skipping CD, moaning “oohhh” in front of certain words. “Claire” was one of them.
So I stepped into the same nightmare she did, and did my best supermodel impersonations up and down the hall for her, as any 5’10” sixteen-year-old would do. Then a little diaper dance.
Her slow Julia Child laughter barrels down the brightly lit hallway, still. I can see her bumpy head tilted back in that gray hospital bed. A human heart never felt bigger than in that moment. Our tears were transformed.
There’s this picture I took after one of the Malibu fires burned up the hills surrounding my neighborhood—charcoaled soil punctured by sharp green needles of grass. For a moment the charred ground that brain cancer and impending death left behind suddenly burst alive with love and laughter.
Each cackle and joyful boogery snort punctured the darkness, allowing the solemn scene to morph into a comedy of verdant life and love.
It was here, at this moment, that I decided my Fuck You God stance wasn’t going to serve me so well in the coming month. I knew I would die in some way, too. If she trusted Jesus with her bumpy life, maybe I could cling to the same Divine Love that Ellen knew so completely?
Could something be both Good and Hard at the same time? Can God exist as Good and Hard at the same time? Do Good and Hard even really exist? Does anything matter anymore? Because I’m about to watch my sister die in the back bedroom of my house and I want to pummel the pause button.
Oh Claire oh Claire oh Claire oh Claire. I can hear it still.